Tuesday, June 5, 2012

As the rate of weekly worship declines, the rate of abortion also increases exponentially

World Congress of Families, Madrid 2012
Catholics for Choice Report on Day One: “You can’t put too much emphasis on it; but it’s very striking.”
25 May 2012

The core message of the 2012 World Congress of Families was revealed right at the outset of day one: the legitimacy of the opinions presented as fact at this event is drawn from both international consensus and science, so long as both comport with the presenters’ worldview.

Within 20 minutes of the conference’s opening, the talking points were clear. The first was a citation from the UN Declaration on Human Rights that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, and is entitled to protection by society and the state.” The second came when speaker Jamie Mayor Ortega from the Spanish antichoice organization HazteOir asserted that “The power of the term ‘Natural Family’ also derives from the sciences—the social sciences and the natural sciences.” 

For the remainder of the day an assembly of speakers repeated these mantras while sharing their hatred of homosexuality and a woman’s right to choice, and revealing their overarching persecution complexes. The speakers struggled to make their individual viewpoints fit under a rather rickety umbrella of disdain for categories they generally agreed were bad, disgusting and dangerous. In terms of specifics the only consensus was that no proof was to be offered, no scientific studies cited.

Though attendance was announced at 2,500, the auditorium at the Palacio de Congressos de Madrid was nowhere near capacity. Of approximately 840 ground-floor seats, at best 2/3 were filled—at worst 1/2. Aside from about a dozen audio-visual crewmembers and other individuals scattered about, the spacious balcony was virtually empty. Spread out over several floors with sparse signage and rooms hidden in corners and down corridors, there was a healthy number of lost souls wandering about, attempting to find where they were supposed to be, wished to be or were instructed to be.

During the opening plenary, Dr. Javier Escrivá Ivars, visiting professor at the Faculty of Canon Law at the University of Navarra, Spain, asserted that “Heterosexuality is the anthropological basis of matrimony and if the legal concept of matrimony is destroyed the institution will follow.” Dr. Escrivá Ivars then picked up on one of the two major themes of the day when he asserted—well outside of the demonstrable evidence of any proven science—that the family was a natural fact from the dawn of time based on marriage as a natural phenomenon and the truth upon which humanity as a species is based. To continue the theme Elder Erich W. Kopischke of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints went on to compare God to gravity and man and woman and any union outside of narrowly defined moral parameters as “drifting from Him.” This was followed shortly afterwards by Lola Velarde, the president of the Institute for Family Policy’s European Network, making a series of assertions concerning the threat of a dwindling world population and broken marriages as two of the worst problems in the world—both assertions being presented with no proof to back up her claims.

The subject of a dwindling world population was the focus of the next plenary, “The Demographic Winter.” The presenters were now fully stretched and warmed up to sprinting speed; the uncited statistics and unfounded assertions came thick and fast. “The average couple that worships at least once a week has at least 2.4 more children [than a non-worshipping couple]. As the rate of weekly worship declines, the rate of abortion also increases exponentially,” stated John Mueller, the Lehrman Institute Fellow in Economics at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC. From whence Mr. Mueller acquired this shocking (and somewhat suspect) fact, was apparently unimportant—or, at least not important enough that he felt the need to state the source aloud. Donald Feder, director of communications at the Howard Center—the main sponsor of this event, picked up the baton from Mueller, claiming that the 42 million abortions a year was more than twice the number of deaths during World War II. Notwithstanding the inappropriate nature of the comparison between women’s decisions about whether to remain pregnant and the deaths of adults and children in wartime, most reasonable assessments of the death toll in World War II put the total at over 60 million. But facts were hard to find. Not to be outdone, Douglas Sylva of theCatholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) relied on his recollection of statistics from three small and troubled countries—Palestine, Israel and Serbia—to make his case that declining populations would eventually shift the balance of global power. Lunch was a welcome diversion.

Despite the fact that numerous speakers throughout the day cited the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and its definition of the role of the family in society, the afternoon session “How to Fight Back against International Law,” did not take a kind view of the UN. As chairman, C-FAM’s Austin Ruse stated this session was about the imposition of law by organizations such as UNICEF, the UNDP and a host of other organizations and “how to fight back—legally or otherwise” against them. Ruse accused these organizations of perpetuating atrocities, citing the UN’s support for reproductive health programs as evidence. Piero A. Tozzi from the Alliance Defense Fund later agreed with Ruse, claiming that UNICEF “promotes abortion wherever they have an opportunity.” The remainder of the seminar involved celebrating cases, mostly in Latin America, where a woman’s right to choose was obstructed or denied altogether or same-sex marriage was prohibited. Supply lists were also drawn up for those wishing to combat these international forces. As panelist Carmen Domínguez, professor of civil law at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, put it, “We need more data to counter statistics and information gathered by international organizations.” She then mentioned an instance where a Chilean doctor asserted that he had disproved assertions by the United Nations and various other groups that safe and legal abortion could alleviate maternal mortality. Domínguez failed to note that the Guttmacher Institute had decisively refuted the Chilean study.

The afternoon closed with a pair of seminars that increased the speed and density of cognitive dissonance and paranoia to what could best be described as a screeching blur. Within 30 seconds of standing up to address the (fittingly) sparsely populated seminar “The Demographic Winter” (a quite necessary expansion of the previous plenary session of the same name), Steve Mosher of the Population Research Institute implied that the Club of Rome had taken part in a Masonic conspiracy to misrepresent the levels of natural resources in a book they published close to 40 years ago. There was no conspiracy, Masonic or otherwise; our ability to find and access those resources has simply improved dramatically since then.

A session just down the hall entitled “Birth Control (Contraception) vs. Natural Family Planning,” was perhaps the best attended session of the day. Attendees also heard some of the most bizarre information of the day. Discussing the alleged detrimental effects of birth control pills, Joseph Meaney of Human Life International (HLI) first dismissed the studies on the environmental effects of oral contraception as silly stories about gender changing in fish, and urged the audience to instead consider the effects of the pill upon women. Within moments, he began citing studies involving the effects of birth control on animals (per the prevailing custom of the WCF he failed to specify them in any identifiable way). Animals in Krueger National Park in South Africa behaved bizarrely after they were given birth control pills. A macaque monkey called Austin “began to rape, masturbate and act completely incoherently confused” when the females in his troop were put on the pill. Returning to his initial plea to ignore these stories, Meaney then immediately added, “These are animals studies, so, you can’t put too much emphasis on it; but it’s very striking.”

And with that statement Joseph Meaney explained the underpinning of the entire day: “You can’t put too much emphasis on it; but it’s very striking.” Indeed. 


  1. Catholics for Choice Report on Day Two: NO ONE knows the way to San José
    Saturday, May 26, 2012

    “There is a lattice of newly claimed [cultural] norms that are being forced upon governments and upon people. These norms—they have never been voted upon—are reached through lies, treachery, deceit and raw power. Those doing this do not believe in the democratic process; they believe in their own superiority. They think they know better than the democratically elected officials—and they certainly know better than mothers and fathers and other citizens around the world.”

    Though presented as a description of the prochoice community, this comment by Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute’s Austin Ruse during the day’s opening plenary session (“Threats to Life and Family in International Law”) established the feats of psychological transference that would characterize the sessions, workshops and casual conversations for Day Two of the World Congress of Families. The second day was faithful to the spirit of the first. We were presented with false anthropological notions of human history and behavior. Citations of the UN Declaration of Human Rights were almost immediately followed by vitriolic condemnations of the UN. And, as a matter of course, so-called divinely preordained laws governing human sexual norms were presented as incontestable.

    Few things characterized this strengthening feedback loop of outrage, disgust and cultural disconnection more than Ruse’s opening address. After bemoaning the United States Supreme Court having made “homosexual sodomy a constitutional right,” Ruse sat down to somewhat muted applause. As the applause faded, Ruse proceeded to cajole the crowd into a new round of applause as he began to clap his own presentation wildly—presumably at the glory of his own remarks—which invoked the still modestly-sized crowd into a fit of cheering.

    Following close behind Ruse in this opening session, former United States Ambassador to East Timor under the second Bush administration Grover Joseph Rees spoke on the San José Articles which were drafted in San José, Puerto Rico, in March of 2011. The nine articles express vehement opposition to abortion and make numerous dubious scientific, medical and moral claims.

    During the opening day of the Congress, this document was repeatedly touted by panelists and organizers as the most crucial weapon in fighting back against international organizations attempting to force reproductive health upon an unwilling world. Conference attendees were instructed to arm themselves with this document as it included the names of 40 well-respected signatories including world renowned academics and numerous physicians. Strangely, despite the periodic championing of this document, no copies were handed out, even as Rees discussed the majesty and invincibility of this document. Instead, we were only given a Website to access on our own time. A moment online quickly revealed why this paradigm-shifting document was not disseminated. Despite the document's stone-faced assertions concerning scientific facts, only one obstetrician/gynecologist is listed among the 40 signatories. Examining further, one begins to notice familiar names—names of the same people who helped organize the conference, as well as speakers including Austin Ruse, his co-worker Douglas Sylva and, of course, Grover Joseph Rees. Despite his pride in the document, Rees did not mention that he was a signatory, nor did he explain why—at a conference swarming with flyers and handouts—this very important document was not printed up.

    At the conclusion of his presentation, attendees cheered Rees’ assertion that they could band together and put the world right through legal action on a worldwide scale. All they needed to achieve this, it appeared, was “raw power” and the San José Articles.

  2. The first speaker at a plenary session entitled “Culture of Life vs. Culture of Death” was
    Dr. Alveda C. King from Priests for Life. King gave her usual stump speech, mentioning her uncle Dr. Martin Luther King on several occasions, comparing the antichoice movement to the Civil Rights struggle in the 1960s and asserting that Planned Parenthood was part of an ongoing global conspiracy bent on eugenic population control. While she is related to Dr. King, most of his family has repudiated her antiabortion position. Her assertions about the antiabortion movement and Planned Parenthood have been rightfully and comprehensively repudiated.

    Following behind King in the same session was Dr. Nicolás Jouve the president of both CiViCa: Asosciación de Investigadores and Profesionals por la Vida. He indirectly, perhaps unintentionally, encouraged an internationally managed redistribution of wealth when he pointed out that world crop yields and available agricultural land could more than support all the people of the earth if only the UN would focus its attentions on making this happen. Nonetheless, the local speaker was met with wild applause.

    During the day, several workshops ran concurrently with larger sessions in the main auditorium. For reasons never explained, some of these workshops—scheduled to run six hours with periodic breaks—were removed from where they began with no indication as to where they were relocated to. Almost every section ran well over time and announcements were repeatedly made to let people know that events were not cancelled but simply pushed back on the timetable.

    The most popular session of the afternoon was entitled “The Painful Reality of Abortion.” The panel consisted of a chairwoman, three speakers and a fourth who was miraculously added, unintroduced, at the last minute. It ran 40 minutes over time. Those who did not leave before the end, and those who did were many, were subjected to a avalanche of unsubstantiated claims about “postabortion syndrome” by Dr. Carmen Goméz-Lavín of the Federación Española de Asociaciones Provida. She reeled off a litany of symptoms tied to this “syndrome” that included but were not limited to feelings of guilt, depression, eating disorders and alcoholism.

    Vicky Thorn from Project Rachel closed the session. Taking a lead from many of the speakers at the conference, Thorn went on to give a lengthy speech that contained numerous scientific claims but virtually no citations. Claims involving pheromones, biological memory on a cellular level, male bonding hormones generated in the husband during pregnancy and mothers experiencing poor bonding with children after an abortion were made but neither verbally nor visually cited (the latter being due to the absence of visual aids of any sort). Thorn did, however, manage to cite one fact, an article from Scientific American involving fetal micro-chimerism. She did not, however, have a copy of the article on her person—instructing attendees to approach her after the session and she would provide them with the year, issue and title. Few bothered.

    On this note, the second day wound down for those who remained. Which is to say, the very few who weren’t too angry at having been kept an hour over the scheduled time and hadn’t either gone home or headed out for dinner.

    While several events are scheduled for tomorrow, it is doubtful if any of them aside from the scheduled morning Mass will take place in the specified location and at the specified time, though no doubt it too will run over and delay everything in its wake. I trust they won’t interrupt the consecration to make the now commonplace announcement that all following sessions will be postponed until the final blessing is complete.


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